Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - October 19, 2016

Should You Invest More in Training Sales Managers?


Note from Jeff: I've known and respected Ned Miller for a long time, and I've asked him to share his insights on sales culture in this issue of Jeff's Thoughts. More about Ned below.

So what if you allocated more of your sales training budget to your bank's sales managers, taking some of what you currently spend on programs for your front line sales team and investing more in their coaches?

It's not what most banks have done historically. When the Executive Team at a community or regional bank spots a revenue problem, their knee-jerk reaction is often to schedule more sales refreshers for salespeople. Sales management training is an afterthought, usually included as a very abbreviated Executive Overview so that sales managers "know what's being discussed" in the sales training sessions.

Recent research from The Sales Management Association suggests that a better move would be to start with your sales managers. In a blog post entitled New Research Points to a Crazy Strategy: Stop Training Sales People, Jason Jordan, a partner at Vantage Point Performance and the lead consultant in the study, makes a strong case for investing in sales management training before embarking on additional sales workshops for the troops. The results of their study of 161 businesses were clear: the more money that companies spent on sales management training, the greater the likelihood that they met their sales goals.

Jordan acknowledges that salespeople still need to be trained on an organization's sales process and products. But what the research reveals is that "that the sales manager is where organizations get the greatest return on investment. When managers are more skilled at coaching and developing their people, they can leverage that knowledge across their entire team."

The economics of focusing on sales leaders are compelling. In most banks we work with the ratio of salespeople to sales managers ranges from 5 to 1 in commercial banking to 10 to 1 in small business banking and 15 to 1 in branch banking. The all in costs of creating a strong cadre of sales managers would be significantly lower than what it would take to develop all the sales team.

Again, nobody is suggesting that you jettison all sales training. Your bankers need to continue to develop their skills to remain competitive. But rather than an add-on module to a new sales program, sales management training deserves a bigger place in your talent development strategy. When coupled with ongoing coaching for sales leaders, the results can be impressive.

Any winning team, including your sales team, needs great coaches. Take another look at your sales training to see whether too much is invested in developing your "players" and too little in developing their managers.

Shifting that balance a bit can be the secret to a significant, positive shift in your sales.

About Ned Miller

Ned has a long history in banking and an extensive consulting background. Before Joining MZ Bierly, Ned was a relationship manager and team leader at Citibank and at the Philadelphia National Bank. He was also the Director of Chapters and Memberships for the Risk Management Association (RMA) where he built a series of programs to address business development issues. Before joining RMA, Ned spent two years with The Richardson Company, delivering sales, sales management and negotiations training to bankers in the U.S., Canada and various countries in Latin America. For more of Ned's thinking about boosting sales, read his posts on the Bank Sales Corner blog, or contact him at